Via Media

Via Media


Into the baths of Lourdes. Reprinted from The Tablet in Godspy:

Out comes a Down’s syndrome boy, face creased with smiles. He gives us all a thumbs-up. Nothing to worry about, fellahs, he seems to say.

The Catholic Church is nowhere better represented than here, at this moment. The boundaries between physical and spiritual are collapsed, and the Kingdom breaks out: the disabled mingle with the able-bodied, the nations mix, and we tap into God’s goodness by physical acts which we are confident are not meaningless. Our literal age has little time for this stuff, which shrivels under the cold glare of rationalism. But the sacramental imagination is bigger, deeper and wider.


All I have done is move down a pew or two, but I am much closer to what this is all about. Our unconscious grasps what our eyes cannot. Who are they, in the chariots in front of us now? Our fears—deformation, paralysis, fragility—but also our glory: the Spirit of God, assuring us of human empathy and supernatural transcendence. Healing is collective; we are in need of others. The fellow in the middle with the purple fingers could go at any time, but what better way than like this, carried by gentle young helpers, into the arms of God?

Comments read comments(10)
post a comment
Fr. J

posted October 20, 2005 at 9:35 pm

I went to Lourdes after a bout with cancer and took the plunge. COLD. It was a wonderful experience. I could care less about the trinket sellers etc. After the bath I really felt…graced. During the day I went to confession, said the rosary, visited the grotto, and said Mass. It was a great day. Mary was very good to me. Since then no return of cancer and a feeling of peace about it. I recommend it.

report abuse

Gerard E.

posted October 21, 2005 at 4:57 am

Great piece. We are truly treasures in earthen vessels. In spite of need, or desire, or urge for cash, to dispose of those like this man with Down’s Syndrome.

report abuse

Livi Ruffle

posted October 21, 2005 at 5:00 am

I went to the baths at Lourdes because I was a Handmaid on my (then) Diocese’s pilgrimage, and the lady I was looking after wanted to be bathed.
It was cold. Very cold! But it was also extraordinarily powerful, something that broke down any walls I had constructed around my emotions. The next afternoon I harried my leader into letting me assist with the bathers, and those two experiences made all the downs (or percieved downs) of that pilgrimage worthwhile.

report abuse


posted October 21, 2005 at 5:13 am

We were in Lourdes last April when Benedict was elected. We went into the baths on a chilly day. Got in line early. Although my husband and I had some minor ailments, we went for those back home who needed healing – many had sent petitions. We were also told we would really regret not taking advantage of the opportunity.
I thought: Oh, yuck when I read this about the water being so dirty. The water is drained and fresh water put in the bath twice a day I was told and it seemed so.
It was a very prayerful and quiet experience with the helpers respecting your privacy and wrapping you quickly with a sheet before the plunge. A young pilgrim with our group said they didn’t give her towels to dry off, but she seemed to dry very quickly and felt so warm despite the weather. That was our experience too.
Our overwhelming impression of Lourdes was of the great esteem and respect for the sick and disabled. They are truly VIPs here & our Lord’s attitude towards the sick during his earthly ministry shines through…truly the Gospel of Life overcoming the Culture of Death.
Someone tipped us off to have our huge bottle of Lourdes water sent back instead of trying to carry it. You could find the info about ordering on the Lourdes website. It cost us about $75 but it has been worth it to give it to so many people.
Also Ignatius Press has a DVD – Bernadette – filmed on sitewhich we got. The lead’s last name is Penney? This is the version chosen to be shown in Lourdes.
Another pilgrim emailed us recently that she drank the last of her Lourdes water, asked Mary to help her and emailed Lourdes a petition the night she went for the results of a medical tests that had shown a suspicious mass on her uterus. She said it was perfectly clear and was rejoicing.
Go if you can!

report abuse


posted October 21, 2005 at 8:05 am

I ended up there by mistake last year. I was walking in the Pyrenees and strained my achilles tendon. I was at a loose end and decided to camp in Lourdes, as much out of professional curiosity (I’m a church historian) as anything else.
I’m ashamed to confess I’m still sceptical (though not in a hostile way) about much of what happens at Lourdes. I’m also too Anglo-Saxon and uptight for fervid Marian piety, and, despite the achilles tendon, I didn’t go into the baths (more fool me). But I agree wholeheartedly with the extract from the Tablet: in its display of the weakness and folly of God Lourdes does somehow distill Catholicism and reminded me of why I am a Catholic.

report abuse


posted October 21, 2005 at 8:25 am

I was at Lourdes in 1963. Of course there were many trinket shops, but they seemed well kept away from the shrine area. I remember how walking from the hotel through the streets of the town, the shops ended at what seemed a wide road which one crossed into the shrine area. One no mean miracle of Lourdes is its economic effect on the town.

report abuse


posted October 21, 2005 at 10:34 am

We have been to Fatima, Medjugorje, Lourdes and Guadalupe. My husband says Mary is the biggest employer of people in the world. She sees an economically depressed area, appears and suddenly their are hotels, gift shops, restaurants and JOBS for her children. What has helped me put the commercialization into perspective is the fact that these are once-in-a-lifetime trips and people want to bring back something for their loved ones who will never get there.

report abuse

too shy to try

posted October 21, 2005 at 11:17 am

I never knew that you had to go in naked! Even women? Why can’t you wear bathing suits?
And I think the real miracle here is that no one gets anyone else’s diseases from the water…yes, I know, changed twice a day, but what of that person with the open sores just ahead of you? It’s not like a chlorinated pool and the sick can have skin rashes, discharges, bandages with pus and blood, incontinence, women having periods fer goodness sake…I’d love to see a lab test done on the walls of the basins.
Don’t misunderstand; I believe in Lourdes and I have a deep faith in the Blessed Mother, but I have to believe that I am not called to go and do this.
I’d be happy to pay the $75 for a bottle of the fresh water.

report abuse


posted October 21, 2005 at 5:04 pm

The water looked very fresh and clean or I wouldn’t have gone in. Judy

report abuse


posted October 22, 2005 at 4:21 am

I went in 2000. I too hesitated about the cleanliness of the water, but I asked to be plunged fully. That was the advice of a friend. It was a powerful moment, hard to describe in words. It felt like a second baptism or a second birth.
Plunging into that used water is a leap of faith.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to ...

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But ...

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and ...

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No? about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling ...

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every ...

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.